Results tagged ‘ Tampa Bay Rays ’

My Favorite MLB Teams

While I’ve always kind of known which teams I like and which I don’t–although even those have changed throughout the years–I truly have never ranked the teams 1-30 as to which I like better than others. So that’s what I’m going to do right now. (Disclaimer: This is a list of how I order the teams in the offseason of 2013-14. While most of my decision in where to put a team in the rankings is based off of the franchise itself, some of it is based on who is on the team right now, so these rankings are subject to change over time.)

1. Minnesota Twins-

My story with the Twins is that I grew up a Yankees fan being from New York, but being that I look at things from a GM’s perspective, I thought that being Brian Cashman and having a $200-million payroll would be a pretty boring job creatively since he could essentially buy any player he wanted to. In thinking this, I thought of a team who had success but doing so with a reduced payroll that required teams to build their team in an innovative way on a much smaller budget. Being as it was the mid-2000s, the Twins was a natural choice seeing as they were a constant playoff team with one of the lowest budgets in baseball. Now don’t get me wrong; there’s a different challenge in being the GM of the Yankees: you’re never allowed to take a year off having success to rebuild your core/farm system, but I was entranced by the building of a successful major league team from a solid minor league core.

2. Washington Nationals-

In going to a ton of games at Nationals Park in 2011 I fell in love with the core of players that went 80-81 as well as the people who inhabited it. Ever since then, I have been a really big fan of the players that made up the core of the teams in the next two years. And because of me falling in love with the Nationals Park environment for whatever reason as well as the people who made it such a special place, I became a fan of the franchise as a whole.

3. Tampa Bay Rays-

Much like the Twins, the Rays endeared themselves to me by being a team that built their team intelligently–allowing them to achieve repeated success on a payroll that can’t compare to that of a larger market team.

4. San Francisco Giants-

The Giants is an interesting case because it started as simply a liking of a specific player: Tim Lincecum. However, as I kept up with Lincecum more and more as he began to turn from the Washington kid who could pitch insanely fast for his size to a household name, I grew to have a liking fro the other players on the Giants as well. I think having shared a hotel with the players in Milwaukee and having a mini-conversation with a couple of them as well as having a personal memory of what Brian Wilson was like pre-beard may have contributed to this connection to the team, though.

5. Texas Rangers-

I truly have no idea how the Rangers managed to climb my list so high. I used to not really be a fan of them in their team with the two Rodriguezes, but as they turned towards a team that relied more on pitching *in addition to* the offense the Rangers always seemed to have, I really liked the teams that they constructed around 2009-10.

6. New York Yankees-

While they have fallen down my list and I hate the franchise past the team itself, they still are my childhood team that I can’t help to root for.

7. Philadelphia Phillies-

While it was not the beginning of my fandom of them, this certainly sealed it for me. They’d be higher on the list for me, but Phillies fans.

8. Toronto Blue Jays-

Part of me always sympathized with our neighbors to the north. Even when the Expos were still a team, I liked the Blue Jays a lot and always secretly as a Yankee fan hoped they would surge up and break the norm of the AL East standings for a while in the early 2000s–which was:

1. Yankees

2. Red Sox

3. Blue Jays

4. Orioles

5. Devil Rays

I just really always wanted them to have success, and this translated to a fandom of the team when they played teams that weren’t my top-of-the-line favorite teams.

9. Milwaukee Brewers-

My liking of the Brewers began in around 2008 when CC Sabathia joined the team for half a season and did amazing with being in attendance for what should have been a no-hitter, (I might write about this/do a video for a “Blast From the Baseball Past” entry) but then I just had a fandom for the Fielder and Braun teams. My fandom for the team, though, has lessened the past couple of years for obvious reasons regarding one or more of the aforementioned players.

10. Oakland Athletics-

(See Tampa Rays.)

11. Cincinnati Reds-

I think this is kind of a fusion of many of the various teams I have talked about to this point. So in part it’s like the Rays where I liked that a solid major league team was built from the pooling of major league talent, but it is also a lot like the Giants since I really like Joey Votto as a player.

12. Atlanta Braves-

I think this is Nationals-esque in that I loved Turner Field and its atmosphere. I also liked the core and became much more of a fan because of people I have met that are passionate about the Braves. And I can say that the fact that Julio Teheran plays for them doesn’t hurt them at all.

13. Arizona Diamondbacks-

This is one of the teams that I honestly don’t know why I like more than most teams. I’ve just always liked Diamondbacks teams (after the 2001 season, that is.) Yeah, I don’t know.

14. Seattle Mariners-

This has been mostly the product of running into very nice baseball people who are fans of the Mariners. I’m also a fan of how good of a pitching team they have been despite being offensively anemic the past seasons.

15. Baltimore Orioles-

Similarly to the Mariners, I just know a ton of awesome baseball people that are Orioles fans. In addition to that, their stadium is my favorite in baseball. I would say that really the only reason they’re this far down the list is that some Orioles fans became obnoxious as they began to climb out of the AL East cellar.

16. Detroit Tigers-

I know that I’m supposed to hate the Tigers as a Twins fan, but the fact that we beat them in the game 163 we played them helps and I always admired the teams that had success more than most of the teams I am supposed to dislike.

17. Pittsburgh Pirater-

I can pretty safely say that if I weren’t a ballhawk, this team would be lower on the list, but because of the big ballhawk following in Pittsburgh, I have kept up and liked the Pirates and it was incredibly fun watching them have success for the first time in over two decades last season.

18. Miami Marlins-

Ah the Marlins. Those poor souls. I always had an affinity for them especially teams with the 30+ homer infields of Uggla, Ramirez, Cantu, and Jacobs. That said, Jeffrey Loria has made this a team that I can’t root for over half of the other teams. They remain a team that I’m intrigued by and want to root for, and they would skyrocket up this list if Loria ever sold them and kept them in Miami, but right now they’re just not a team I can really get behind.

19. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-

I don’t know about this team. I want to like them in many respects, but they lost me when they started spending a bajillion dollars on free agents, trading for Vernon Wells, and then having success with not with their big free agent acquisitions but with the farm talent they had beforehand.

20. Colorado Rockies-

The Rockies are one of those teams I have a preference towards, but still in a kind of “eh” way. I’ve never disliked them really, but I’ve never really had any passion behind my support of them.

21. San Diego Padres-

I used to like them a lot more in the Trevor Hoffman era, but they’ve dropped a bit since then  not necessarily because their lack of success but the players behind these teams. They just haven’t been groups of guys that I’d like to get behind.

22. Cleveland Indians-

Again, never disliked them but never really liked them.

23. Houston Astros-

I actually like the group of people in this team and could see myself liking a lot in the years to come. That said, they have made some pretty bad decisions in the past and it was not a shock that they were as bad of a team as they have been.

24. Kansas City Royals-

I actually like this franchise in terms of their ballpark and look, but then there are the people behind the scenes that ruin this team for me. At the ballpark, I have not heard many positive things about their ushers, and behind the franchise, I disagree on many things with the GM of the team, Dayton Moore. I think that the team could have been competing a long time ago had it not been for his guidance.

25. St. Louis Cardinals-

The main reason for them being this far down the list is the fact that their fans claim incorrectly that they are definitely the “best fans in baseball.” While I don’t think there is a no-doubt group of the best fans in baseball, if my experience with Cardinals fans in baseball has taught me anything, it is that while the Cardinals fan base may be in the top-10, they are definitely not the no-doubt best fans in baseball they claim to be.

26. Chicago White Sox-

I was a fan of the 2005 Astros and 2008 Twins. Enough said.

27. New York Mets-

They’re the Mets. I don’t know how many things I have admired about the Mets the past five years. If it’s any indication, the rendition of “Meet the Mets” that I have adopted begins:

Beat the Mets,

Beat the Mets,

Step right up and,

Sweep the Mets

28. Los Angeles Dodgers-

While I have kind of liked the players on the Dodgers for stretches, their recent acquisition by the Kasten-Johnson group and metamorphosis into baseball’s new Yankees has really turned me off to them. I have disliked them sans Vin Scully for a much longer time than just that, but that’s the most recent thing that provides a rational reason for disliking them.

29. Chicago Cubs-

I have never had any appeal to the Cubs, and I’m not particularly found of how Cubs fans overreact to prospects as well as how in-your-face Cubs fans I have interacted with have been about the most minor successes. Granted, it’s a conditioning that has come with being the fan of a team who last won a World Series when one’s great-grandparents were your age.

30. Boston Red Sox-

This is partially because I grew up a fan of the Yankees, but I also do like their stadium and the atmosphere of it. However, I can’t get over the attitude of their owner John Henry that many fans have adopted without realizing the absurdity of it of that the Yankees have a ridiculous advantage in terms of having a humongous payroll. The reason this argument infuriates me is because for the longest time, there was a gigantic gap in payroll between the Red Sox and the third largest payroll. Thus it was the rich crying poor in order to gain sympathy. The second reason is because the Steinbrenner family is actually a middle-of-the-pack ownership group in terms of wealth. The reason they invest so much money into the team is because they value winning. Therefore, if John Henry truly wanted to win, he could spend the extra money and win. The problem is that if he didn’t win with this extra money invested, he would be losing money. However, George Steinbrenner was taking the same risk when he invested his extra money; it was just that Steinbrenner’s Yankees did win every season and could thus keep spending. So what Henry did by calling out Steinbrenner and the Yankees was criticized him/them for doing what he didn’t have the guts to do with the Red Sox in order to give his fans the winning such a great fan base deserved. However, being the fans that they were, many Red Sox fans backed their owner without truly understanding what was behind these claims.

So those were my favorite teams. I am by no means “right” in any of my judgements. Picking a favorite team–or in my case *teams*–is something of complete subjectivity and can be done for any number of reasons. Also, the next entry is me making a new Observing Baseball Logo. I would actually like to make a clarification. So it’s actually not the logo itself–this:

Just Logo

But it would actually be me remaking the icon itself, which is this:

Icon 5

But besides that, keep voting for your favorite entries. I should mention that I’ll be doing various entries for Twinsfest, but you can vote for the stuff you want to see besides this on the poll below:

9/13/13 Rays at Twins: Target Field

Another Friday meant another game with Jonathan. (He’s available in the nights on Fridays.)

91313 Jonathan at Gate

And with Jonathan at the game, that meant I had a photographer with me to use my fancy camera and possibly get action shots. For example, when we got in, I had run closer to the left field foul pole, but then I saw that a ball was headed back the other way:

91313 Looking left

And started running towards Jonathan with my eye on the ball:

91313 Running left

Reached up:

91313 Reaching up

And then finally caught the ball:

91313 Ball 1

I don’t know who hit it, but it was a Twins player. And that would be the only ball I snagged during Twins BP. My next ball came at the dugout as the Rays were warming up. Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina were playing catch, so I knew I had an advantage, because I could yell Jose as loudly as I wanted to and whichever player ended up with the ball would hear me and most likely toss me the ball. Lobaton ended up with the ball, so here I am reaching up for the ball:

91313 Ball 2

I gave this ball away to a kid that was right next to me, but I wasn’t going to stop there. Because it was at the dugout and no other Rays players had seen me get the ball, I moved down the line and got the attention of Matt Joyce. Here you can see me waving my arms and Joyce facing me with the ball in his hands:

91313 Joyce with ball

And then here’s a picture as the ball was on its descent towards me. Can you find it?

91313 Ball 3

I also gave this ball away, but to Jonathan, since I promised it to him for taking pictures instead of asking the players themselves.

I then figured that it was time to head back to the outfield seats. As the righties were taking their initial cuts, I headed out to the right-center seats to get a couple toss-ups from the players out there. Here’s the first one I got from David DeJesus:

91313 Ball 4

And then I got Matt Moore to toss me a ball:

91313 Matt Moore Toss-up

But his aim was a little low, so I ended up having to reach for the ball in the flower pots:

91313 Ball 5

If you’re keeping track, that was my fifth ball of the day.

I then had some fun scaring people and running after baseballs in the standing room:

91313 SRO

But I didn’t actually get any of the balls hit up there. However, my next baseball was in right field. Here I am catching the ball underhanded–in front of my body, so you can’t see it:

91313 Ball 6

And then right afterwards with the ball in my glove:

91313 Mateo with ball 6

The reason I’m looking over to my left in the picture is because I was looking for a kid I could give the ball away to. I found a kid, but Jonathan didn’t get the picture of that. Jonathan did, however, get this picture of the guy who tossed it, so I’m pretty sure it was Cesar Ramos, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong:

91313 Ceasr Ramos

I then figure I had exhausted all toss-up opportunities in right field, so although left field was way more crowded, I headed over there since there were a bunch of righties coming up. And if you hadn’t seen before, I think it’s pretty apparent here that it was a orange camouflage hat giveaway:

91313 Hunting Hat

Well I did in fact get a toss-up . This guy tossed me a ball, and I assumed it was Jamey Wright, but again I could very well be wrong:

91313 Wright

He spotted me in my Rays gear and flipped me a ball over about seven rows of fans. That would be my last ball for batting practice; my seventh on the day for those of you keeping score at home.

My next ball came from the bullpen. It was myself, a woman, and a bunch of kids asking Bobby Cuellar for a ball. When he got to the wall, he pointed to someone just to my left, so I said, “Hey, I’ll catch it for them.” As a result, Cuellar tossed me a ball for whom I thought was one of the kids, but was oddly enough for the woman. I thought it was weird, but then I realized that she was the mother of one of the smaller children.

I then spent the rest of the time at the bullpen getting some dandy shots like these two:

91313 Kevin Correia

91313 Chris Archer

And then at game time, we went out to the flag court and alternated between there:

91313 Flag Court View

and the left field seats:

91313 Left Field View

But sadly no homers were to be found.

After the game, we headed to the umpire, and here I am calling out to Hunter Wendelstedt:

91313 Calling Out

And then catching the ball:

91313 Ball 9

And then looking to my side for a kid to give the ball away to:

91313 Kid to give ball 9 to

And then I did find a kid to give it away to:

91313 Giving Ball 9 away to

But his friend had also not gotten a ball, so I gave him the ball I had gotten from Wright.

I then quickly made my way to the end of the dugout, where I saw Scott Cursi and Stan Boroski walking in from the bullpen. And as I saw them, I knew right away my strategy. See I had learned the first day I had seen the Rays in Baltimore that Boroski really appreciates people who know his name. I almost guarantee that you will get a ball from him if you ask him by name and he doesn’t recognize you from getting a previous baseball.

It should come as no surprise to you, then, that I got my tenth and final ball from Boroski I simply asked him for a ball, and he pulled a ball out of his pocket and tossed it to me.

STATS:

  • 10 Balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 6 away)

91313 Baseballs

Numbers 714-723:

91313 Sweet Spots

  • 277 Balls in 58 Games= 4.78 Balls Per Game
  • 10 Balls x 27,292 Fans= 272,920 Competition Factor
  • 120 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 25 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 22 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
  • 14 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
  • 4 straight Games with at least 5-6 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with at least 7 Balls
  • 161 Balls in 32 Games at Target Field= 5.03 Balls Per Game
  • 30 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 10 straight Games with at least 2-4 Balls at Target Field
  • 4 straight Games with at least 5-6 Balls at Target Field
  • 2 straight Games with at least 7 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:41-11:12= 7 Hours 31 Minutes

8/21/13 Rays at Orioles: Camden Yards

Again my day did not get off to a good start. But unlike the previous day, it didn’t get all that much better during batting practice. So when I got to Gate H, I kept expecting other ballhawks to be there as well, but none showed up. Both Tim Anderson and Alex Kopp had apparently gone to Dempsey’s, which is a restaurant inside of the warehouse. Once I realized this and found another season ticket holder to use the card of to buy a discounted ticket from, the gates were opening. So as a result, I was like 3-5 minutes late getting in. This may not seem like much, but for a ballhawk right at the time the gates open, it’s an eternity.

So with all of the better spots in left field taken once I got there, it was a no-brainer for me to go down the left field line when the Rays started throwing for toss-ups. Pretty much the only thing that made me want to stay in left was that my next baseball was going to be my 100th at OPACY, so I would have rather it been a hit baseball on the fly. But like I’ve said before, I’m not nearly good enough to be able to choose how I get a baseball. I’m just happy if I get the ball.

That said, Wil Myers looks as though he could become something in the majors, so irrelevant of it being my 100th OPACY ball, when there was a decision to be made of whether to ask him or Evan Longoria for a ball, I got Myers to toss me my first ball of the day and my 100th at OPACY (Oriole Park at Camden Yards, for those of you who are confused):

82113 Ball 1

And with this, I became I believe only one of three ballhawks who have snagged 100 baseballs at five or more ballparks. So that was pretty cool, and not an indication of me being anywhere near the league of the other two ballhawks I share the distinction with. And an even cooler thing was one of my more favorite players, Ben Zobrist came over to sign right after that, and I got him to sign the 100 baseball.

I then moved down the line and awaited for the pitchers to be done throwing. And when Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) was finished throwing, I waved at him for the ball, but he put up a finger as if to say, “One minute.” He then proceeded to do what is known among pitchers “shadowing”, so I assumed when he was done with that, he would throw me the ball. Turns out I didn’t even need to wait that long, because when a ball got hit in hsi direction, he picked it up and chucked it to me:

82113 Ball 2

I then headed back to left, but quickly thereafter left to go to right-center because the non-season ticket holders were being let into the seating bowl. There, I used something I had noticed one of the previous two days. I had seen a kid ask Rays bullpen coach, Stan Boroski, for a ball by name, and Boroski tossed it to him saying, “You’re one of the only people besides this guy (pointing to Scott Cursi) who knows my name in this stadium.” So I though if I got Boroski’s name right, it would be the easiest toss-up in the world. And it was:

82113 Ball 3

After taking the picture, I gave that ball away to a kid who was standing to my right. That was when Alex showed up in the section and reported to me that he had been having a really good day and was already at 6 baseballs. He would then get his seventh from Alex Cobb. He probably could have gotten to double digits, but the Rays ended batting practice 30-40 minutes before the visiting team normally does. So we sat in the center field seats and talked for a while:

82113 Alex CF

Alex would then get his eighth ball that we had both been eying for about 40 minutes from a groundskeeper about ten minutes before game time. I initially stayed out in right field with him for the game, but when I realized that eight of the Rays nine hitters were righties, I moved to over here where this was my view:

82113 Foul Ground

But sadly there were no foul balls within fifteen feet of me. I then headed to the umpire tunnel at the end of the game, but Joe West ran out of baseballs before he got to me.

Thankfully, though, I didn’t just walk back to Alex’s house at that point. Instead I went to the Rays dugout. As the relievers walked in, I saw Joel Peralta had a ball in his rolled up glove, so I asked him for it in Spanish. He completely ignored me, but as he walked into the dugout, I saw a ball bounce towards me on the dugout roof. Apparently Fernando Rodney had heard my request and tossed me a baseball he had with him:

82113 Ball 4

Then I saw that Stan Boroski and Scott Cursi were way behind the relievers, so I quickly changed from my Rays hat to my MLB Fan Cave hat (I already had my MLB Fan Cave shirt on at that point) to disguise myself from Boroski, who had tossed me a ball earlier in the day. And so I again asked Boroski, but this time by last name, and he tossed me my fifth ball of the day. Then I saw a kid next to me with a glove, who had not gotten a ball from Boroski, so I gave him the ball. I was just happy that my disguise had paid off:

82113 Fan Cave Disguise

And so I headed back to Alex’s place by foot. At the time I thought there might be a possibility I’d be back in Baltimore over the weekend, but with talking to my mom on the car ride back to Washington (she and my step-dad picked me up at Alex’s) I learned that wasn’t really a feasible option given the time and day my flight left. So this would prove to be my last game at OPACY in 2013.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave both Boroski balls away)

82113 Baseballs

Numbers 675-679 for my “lifetime”:

82113 Sweet Spots

  • 233 Balls in 52 Games= 4.48 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 28,323 Fans=141,615 Competition Factor
  • 114 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 19 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 16 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 8 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 2 straight games with 5 Balls
  • 104 Balls in 23 Games at OPACY= 4.5 Balls Per Game
  • 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 11 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • 9 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
  • 2 straight games with  at least 5 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 4:33-11:49= 7 Hours 16 Minutes

8/20/13 Rays at Orioles: Camden Yards

This game did not start well for me. Because I was writing an entry and it took me longer than I thought, I arrived at the gate at 4:50. And having not yet bought my ticket, I had to do that and wasn’t able to talk to people much before the gates opened. So while we had talked about it the previous day and I thought I was going to be the only one going to right field when the gates opened, Tim Anderson had changed his mind overnight and ran that way ahead of me. There he caught one Chris Davis home run on the fly and got another that bounced a couple of times in the seats. He then headed over to left, but I was more stubborn and waited an extra five minutes before conceding that doing the same was the better option.

Once there, I had a couple more close calls. The first was a ball Alex Kopp caught on the fly, but his elbow then hit me on the way down and dislodged the ball. I then saw it on the ground and reached for it, but a railing was in my way, and so I wasn’t able to reach out all the way. The next was a ball that bounced in on the first row portion of a staircase, bounced up–nearly taking my and Tim’s heads in the process–and then a guy came out of nowhere to barely beat me to the ball.

So with all of those initial missed opportunities, my first ball of the day came from J.J. Hardy:

82013 Ball 1

I ran a section to my right when I saw the ball get hit, but the kid in the Davis jersey–who was two rows in front of me at the time–seemed like he had the ball. But then I saw the ball hit his glove and go past it, so while there was a railing separating me from the ball, I used it as a fulcrum and just leaned so much that my feet were up in the air, and grabbed the ball out of a seat.

Then, when I saw a ball roll to the corner of the outfield wall by the foul pole, I went over there knowing a player would eventually have to pick it. And so when Chris Tillman walked over, I asked him if he could toss me the ball. As he was walking away with the ball, he turned around and intentionally threw the ball again the foul pole (so it would bounce back to him) but then smiled and actually tossed me the ball:

82013 Ball 2

My next two baseballs came as a result of Danny Valencia. We have known Valencia to hit the ball deep. I mean he regularly hits the back of the visiting bullpen at OPACY and spots in the left field almost just as deep. So all of us backed up whenever Valencia was up and moved up for the other hitters in his group. My spot for Valencia happened to be behind and to the left of my spot for the other hitters, so as I realized he was up, I first went up, and then began going left. And just as I entered the row, Valencia bombed a ball, so I I moved a little more left and judged the ball. I figured if the ball was going over my head or falling short, my only chance would be to jump rows. But thankfully I picked the right row and the ball came right to me. As the other ballhawks put it after BP, it seemed as though I had “teleported” to make the catch:

82013 Ball 3

My next ball wen to the right of my Valencia, and I ran for the ball, picked it up after it hit, and gave it to a guy who was running so fast after it that his sunglasses fell off going down for the ball:

82013 Ball 4 Guy

(That’s the guy holding up the ball. If you can see the kid in Rays gear, that’s his son. I learned from him when I went into foul ground to get a toss-up from Rays players that they were from Green Bay, but since the dad was in town for work, it made complete sense for the kid–whose favorite player of all-time is Evan Longoria–to come down with him.)

Speaking of foul territory, that’s where I got my next ball from Desmond Jennings:

82013 Ball 5

(Jennings was in the dugout by the time I could take a picture of the ball, but that’s where he tossed me my fifth ball of the day from.) A cool thing happened after that in that the kid I mentioned to parenthetical groupings ago got a ball from Evan Longoria, and I got to see his face absolutely light up, since–like I mentioned in the aforementioned parenthetical grouping–Longoria was his favorite player who had also signed his jersey for him the previous day. I’d call that a successful 1,500-mile trip.

My next ball came when I went to the right-center field seats. Matt Moore fielded a ball just past the warning track and tossed it to a kid, but tossed it a little too short, and so it landed here:

82013 Ball 6

So I pulled out the cup trick I had made with Greg Barasch during my most recent New York trip (which I may do an entry about after the 8/21/13 entry) and got the ball otu of the gap, which I then gave to the sister of the kid Moore had thrown the ball to.

Moore then tossed the next ball he got to this kid, but this one sailed over the kid’s head. So I ran over, picked up the ball, and gave it to him:

82013 Ball 7 Kid

Having given now two kids in the family baseballs, his parents then thanked me a bunch of time and told me there was a ball I could use my cup trick on in the batter’s eye. I thanked them for giving me the tip but I told them that we’re not allowed to use it over there.

I waited in the next staircase for about three minutes, but then I started up the stairs to go to the flag court. But when I saw a ball roll to the wall at the bottom I headed back down. Matt Moore got the ball, and started scanning the crowd as if he was looking for someone in particular to toss the ball to. And when I got to the bottom of the staircase, I found out that he was indeed: Me! He tossed me the ball and said, “I saw you give that kid the ball earlier.”

82013 Ball 8

I have no clue why he was wearing a catcher’s glove (maybe it had to do with the fact that he’s on the DL) but trust me that it was indeed Moore. And yes, for those of you keeping score at home, that was my third ball that came as a result of a Matt Moore throw. (I think we can excuse him since he is indeed on the DL.) As well as my eighth ball of the day overall. It was after this that I did indeed go up to the flag court.

Now usually, going up to the flag court is a waste of time snagging-wise for me because I am usually the least skilled of the ballhawks up there and end up getting a ball snatched by another ballhawk when I’m mere inches from it. But on this occasion, it was only myself and Alex  up there, so with me having positioning to his left, I was in front of him on a ball that was hit just to the right of the right field foul pole–by who I’m pretty was Luke Scott, since I don’t know anyone else on the rays with a Wolverine-style beard. It hit in the seats right by two people who had no clue what was going on. The girl then slowly got up and turned around to pick up the ball, but just as she was doing that, I was down on the cross-aisle watching the ball bounce down the steps. And just as she looked down and realized what was happening, I reached through the railing and grabbed the ball:

82013 Ball 9 Diagram

But then I realized that this would have almost undoubtedly have been their ball had I not been there, so I reached up through the railing to give her the ball. And it was a great decision because in walking back onto the flag court, three different ushers congratulated me on giving her the ball. If there’s ever an option between being like by ushers and not being liked by them, I’ll choose being liked. While I realize probably as well as anyone that there are different breeds of ushers/”hospitality attendants/”security officers” (yeah, that’s the official title for those people at Yankee Stadium; I asked one of them) this was a great way to take out three birds with one stone. Unfortunately, though, as it looked very feasible for me to break my all-time record, the Rays ended BP about 20 minutes earlier than the visiting team normally does (which would sadly be one-upped the next day’s BP) and so this was my last ball of BP. Alex and I then headed over to the Orioles bullpen where we met up with Grant Edrington.

There I informed Alex that Rick Adair, who reportedly used to dislike him, but has since grown fond of him because he has seen him give away a ton of baseballs to kids, had taken a leave of absence starting with the Rockies series and that Scott McGregor would instead be clearing the baseballs out of the bullpen. There were three baseballs, and just as Alex predicted, one went to a kid at the corner of the bullpen, one went to Grant, and one went to the middle. The latter was meant for me, since it was right to me, but Alex should have definitely robbed me since he was a row above me. But he was too nice to, so I got the ball and gave it to a kid in front of me:

82013 Ball 10 Kid

And with that, I reached double digits for I believe only the fifth time ever and the third time this year. I could’ve maybe played the dugout and tried to beat my record of 11 balls in a game, but in addition to tying my single-game record, my next baseball would also be the 100th of my career at OPACY, so I thought it’d be cool if it came as a game home run.

I didn’t get a baseball for the rest of the game, but later on in the game, a fan recognized Alex from the video where he caught Chris Davis’ 100th career home run, so Alex gave this young fan one of his baseballs:

82013 Alex Giving Away Baseball

Because I guess that’s what nice famous people do to people who recognize. (You can also see in that picture that Tim was completely touched and captured by the moment.)

STATS:

  • 10 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave the other half away)

82013 Baseballs

Numbers 665-674 for my “career”:

82013 Sweet Spots

  • 227 Balls in 51 Games= 4.45 Balls Per Game
  • 10 Balls x 26,158 Fans=261,580 Competition Factor
  • 113 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 18 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 15 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 7 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 99 Balls in 22 Games at OPACY= 4.5 Balls Per Game
  • 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 12 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 10 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • 8 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 4:40-10:54= 6 Hours 14 Minutes

8/19/13 Rays at Orioles: Camden Yards

This was a pretty run-of-the-mill day at Baltimore. Avi Miller had some work still to do, so he nicely dropped me off at the subway station in his hometown, where I got slightly lost  but managed to make it to Oriole Park at Camden Yards in time to get into left field with everyone. I didn’t find any easter eggs because Garrett Meyer scooped up the only one. Coming into this game, both Garrett and I wore Rays gear coming into the left field seats, because we figured the Orioles wouldn’t throw us any baseballs anyways and that it would be better for us for when the Rays came out to throw and hit in case they were to see us changing.

I say this because I ran up to the front row for a ball that I thought I could maybe catch in the front row. Instead the ball hit off the wall over the glove of Rudy Arais. Just in case the ball had hit him on the back when he was jumping for it, I asked, “Are you okay, Rudy?” He then looked back smiled, and said, “Yes.” It was at that point that he started to pick up the ball, and I realized he had not seen my Rays shirt yet because the wall was blocking it, so I blocked it with my glove. And when Rudy turned and threw the ball to me, I made sure to catch it with my bare hand as to not reveal my Rays logo:

81913 Ball 1

Most of the other ballhawks were astounded because I had made of point of wearing Rays gear before the gates opened, and yet I still got a toss-up from the Orioles. My next ball came in I want to say the second group of Orioles hitters. Some righty in that group hit a ball a little bit to my right, so I went over and caught it on the fly for my second ball of the day:

81913 Ball 2

If it was indeed the second group, it was probably hit by either Steve Pearce or Alexi Casilla, but I’m not going to guess just for the sake of having a name attached to the ball, so we’ll just call him a UHR (Unidetified Hitting Righty). My third ball of the day came when I went into foul territory to get a baseball from the pitchers and position players warming up. I didn’t actually get the warm up ball of any player, but Jeremy Hellickson was helping Chris Archer guard the pitchers from hit baseballs. (You’ll often see there’s one person doing this, since the pitchers are parallel to–in this case–the invisible line between second and third base and can’t see a ball coming at them without turning their heads sideways. But from my experience, it’s usually a bullpen catcher who guards them and not another pitcher; just because the pitcher has to warm up himself.) Anyway, a ball came to Hellickson, and so I shouted, “Jeremy can…” and before I could finish my request he turned to me, so I put up my glove and he threw me my third ball of the day:
81913 Ball 3

That was kind of awesome for me personally, because I believe the last time before that Hellickson had tossed me a baseball was when he tossed me my 100th baseball ever back in 2011. So yeah, pretty much no one else but me would have found it that cool, but I thought it was great.

My fourth ball of the day came when I headed out to the right-center field section for the Rays hitters. ( I didn’t go over there because a bunch of lefties were up. I just usually head over there when the non-season ticket holders flood the left field seats.) Chris Archer fielded a ball at the wall, and tossed me my fourth and final ball of the day when he saw my Rays gear and I called out to him by name. I then asked a kid to my left if he had gotten a ball, and when he said he hadn’t, I handed him the ball:

81913 Ball 4 Happening

For the game, Grant Edrington, Alex Kopp, and I all sat out on the flag court. There were two home runs, both of which we could have possibly gotten but didn’t. (The first of which I am still mad about since I was eating a strawberry-flavored lemon chill when it happened.) But the coolest thing I would say we did the whole night was walk through the cross-aisle:

81913 Through Cross-aisle

And handed Matt Hersl‘s brother a shirt and piece of paper that all of us participants of BallhawkFest 2013 had signed. Despite the fact that this was my first time meeting his brother, it was special from simply my connection to Matt himself. And by far the weirdest thing I experienced that game was on the way back seeing a person about my age not paying attention to the game because he was playing Pokemon on a Gameboy SP:

81913 Gameboy

After that, Garrett, Alex and I headed back to Alex’s place, where we all stayed, I ate some pizza, and was thankfully the only one of the three who didn’t have to wake up before 8:00 in the morning.

STATS:

  • 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)

81913 Baseballs

Numbers 661-664 of my lifetime:

81913 Sweet Spots

  • 217 Balls in 50 Games= 4.34 Balls Per Game
  • 4 Balls x 25,044 Fans=100,176 Competition Factor
  • 112 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 17 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 14 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 6 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 89 Balls in 21 Games at OPACY= 4.24 Balls Per Game
  • 21 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 11 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 9 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • 7 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 3:44-11:56= 8 Hours 12 Minutes

6/21/12 Rays at Nationals: Nationals Park

Ah. Another day, another game at Nationals Park. This time with extra 5 Hour Energy:

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There were some people giving out free samples, so I took a couple if for nothing more than the hydration they gave me on a scorching day.

Once I got inside the gates, I first went over to right field to try to get a ball from the pitchers pictured:

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Nothing. Every one of the pitchers ignored my request for a ball.

Then I moved over to the left field seats, where this was my view:

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Nothing.

I got Drew Storen to toss me my first ball right over the visitors’ bullpen. The ball had bounced off the outside of the bullpen, so check out the marks on it:

20120622-233809.jpg

After that, I went over to the Red Seats, where this was my view:

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You may notice that the pitcher in the middle of the three is Drew Storen. While he was there, I didn’t want to ask any of the pitchers for balls, figuring he would recognize me. When he left, however, I got Craig Stammen to toss me a ball:

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(Stammen is the guy to the right of my glove.) After that, a person came up to me and asked, “Hey, what’s your name?” When I responded, he said, “Do you write a blog on Mlblogs?” The mystery person was Steve Miller, a guy who also writes a Marlins-themed Mlblog entitled, Fish Fry. I had actually commented on it a couple of times, and he has a picture of himself on the blog, but for whatever reason, I didn’t recognize him until he introduced himself. This is just one example that if you are at the ballpark and spot myself or another ballhawk you recognize, introduce yourself. We don’t ignore you on purpose. It’s just that with all the interactions/faces that we come across during an average game, it can be hard to keep track of. I know that I personally will never “shoo” anyone away who introduces themselves, and the worst that will happen with most other ballhawks is they’ll ask you if you can talk after batting practice instead. Anyway, I stupidly didn’t get a picture with Steve.

Right after Steve introduced himself, I said, “Man, I wish I could get a hit ball instead of a toss-up, so I can give it away to one of these kids.” pointing to the kids in the first row.

Well, I did get a hit ball to come to me. A Nationals righty hit a high fly ball that I could tell was going to hit the warning track. I aligned myself with the ball and was ready to catch the ball as it bounced over the wall and right right towards my glove. Perfect, right? Well the ball hit off the warning track with such spin that once the ball bounced into my glove, it bounced right out of my glove. It then went into the gap between the two walls I the Red Seats. It was extremely frustrating, but they’ll be more on this ball in a bit.

Okay, now it’s time to make some New York ballhawks jealous. This was the view to my right:

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I caught my third ball of the game half way between the kid in the red and the man in the white in the row behind them. I was taking a picture, and just as I took the picture and was putting my phone in my pocket, Adam LaRoche hit a ball to my right. I was still putting it in my pocket, and had to make a back handed catch, leaning over a row of seats. I then gave that ball to the kid in the red hat in the next picture:

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Here is the view to my left:

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See the man in a blue shirt in the row emanating from the lower left corner of the picture? I got two hit balls right where he is standing in the picture. The first was a ball Roger Bernadina hit that landed in that spot. I then picked it up after running over there from where I took that last picture. I was the heading back to the spot where I took the picture from when Rick Ankiel hit a ball to the same exact spot. I moved back over to the spot and made the catch for which I got some applause.

Sensing that everyone in the section had just seen me get two balls, I asked, “Who hasn’t gotten a ball yet?” Four people raised their hands zero of which were kids with gloves. I didn’t want to be a jerk and crush people’s hopes that I had just gotten up, so I gave the ball away to a girl in the front row.

Soon after this, I was still thinking about if the ball I had dropped into the gap was still there. I figured it was, so I VERY quickly and discreetly went to the center field gap (In a different shirt, hat, and sunglasses, just in case.), and I glove tricked the ball, having learned from my previous- failed- attempt the day prior. After I reeled it up without anyone seeing me, I got out of there as fast as I could and went to left field.

In left field, Fernando Rodney tossed me a ball left handed. Naturally, the ball was off target. I then grabbed the ball and l gave it away to a girl who had been jokingly complaining that her brother had gotten a ball while she hadn’t. I should mention that this ball came after I missed two other toss-ups. One was a similar one from Rodney that I missed all together. The other was from another Rays player I never identified. Both sailed over my head, where I never got them.

The Rays had a VERY abbreviated batting practice. After getting 6 balls in Nationals B.P., I was eyeing double digits. The Rays actually only had one group of hitters, the pitchers. I thought the infielders were dead until I saw them take the field for the game.

Anyway, after batting practice ended, I got Jeremy Hellickson to toss me a ball as he entered the Rays dugout.

For those of you wondering why there is a lack of pictures in the latter part of this entry, my phone, on which I take pictures, was dying, so I didn’t want to use it that much. Finally, when it was essentially dead, I took my last picture of the day, which was my view for the rest of the game:

20120622-225942.jpg
I would have gone back and forth from the two sides of the outfield, but there were really only righties in the two line-ups that could homer (with the exception of Bryce Harper). I did go over to right field once or twice, but it wasn’t until the later innings I did so. On one of those trips, the usher I know asked me if I could give him two baseballs, so I did. If you are keeping track, that was now SIX of the eight balls I had snagged that I had given away. I will no longer field any “ballhawks are greedy” comments.

After the top of the inning, the Rays bullpen catcher, Scott Cursi, would warm up Desmond Jennings. EVERY inning, I went down to try and get the ball, and every inning ended the same way, me walking back up the stairs in dejection.

The Nationals won the game on the wings of Gio Gonzalez as he bested the Rays’ starter, Matt Moore. The final score was 5-2.

After the game, I went down to see if I could get the lineup card from Stan Boroski, the Rays’ bullpen coach. Not even a reaction when I asked him.

STATS:

• 8 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 6 away)

20120622-235553.jpg
numbers 277-284 for my “career”:

20120623-000719.jpg
• 62 Balls in 13 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game
• 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 2 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 5 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 6 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 7 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 8 Balls
• 8 Balls x 29,551 Fans= 236,408 Competition Factor
• 75 Balls at Nationals Park in 15 Games= 5 Balls Per Game
• 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
• 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 5 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 6 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 7 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 8 Balls
• Time at Game 4:09-10:27= 6 Hours 18 Minutes

6/20/12 Rays at Nationals: Nationals Park

It was my first game at Nationals Park this year, and look who I ran into at the Center Field Gate:

That would be fellow ballhawk, Rick Gold; and for the record, I was wearing the University of Miami shirt because I found out Rick was going to this game and he is an alumnus. It was a pretty hot day, so we tried to stay in the shade until security asked whose bags were sitting alone at the gate and we had to stand with them until the gates opened.

When the gates opened, Rick went to the Red Seats in center field and I went to the seats in straight-away left field. Just as I got there, a coach was picking up a ball right at the wall, so I asked him point blank, “Coach, could you possibly toss me that ball, please?” He picked up the ball and tossed it right back in to the bucket in shallow center field. Here is the coach:

Anyone know who he is?

After that, I had three balls hit within ten feet of me. Want to know how many I caught? Zero. Here are the misssed opportunities:

1. This one feels the stupidest of all three because I was THE ONLY ONE IN THE SECTION. All I had to do was catch the ball and I would be fine. Well, I ran into a row two rows above the landing spot of the ball and when I couldn’t reach the ball leaning over a seat, the ball bounced off a seat in front of me and back onto the field.

2. My biggest problem the whole day was that I was going too far back on balls. I kept thinking balls were going to keep travelling when they didn’t. This ball was no exception. I to a spot that was about three rows back from the ball, and watched as a fan tried to barehand the ball, and later picked it up after it scooted away from him. Had I judged the ball well, I could have gone into the row in front of him and caught the ball, or I would have picked up the ball after he dropped it.

3. This time I actually was in a spot to catch the ball. The problem was there was a fan in front of me. He then deflected the ball, which made it go to my left, where it ricocheted off the seat back into his row, where he picked it up. There was no one even close to me other wise, so had the ball just stayed after it deflected off his glove, I would have been able to easily pick it up.

Then I noticed a few balls were going into the bullpen. I then saw this guy, who I tried to glove trick:

First I reeled out my line to knock it closer, then I pulled it up to insert the sharpie and rubber band. (If you don’t what the glove trick is, here’s a link that should explain it. Disclaimer: the link is to Zack Hample’s blog, not mine. That’s because he thought up the idea, not me. I’m simply a vulture.) What happened when I pulled the glove up is the string got tangeled, and the glove therefore couldn’t go as far down. I then spent what seemed like an hour trying to untangel it before relenting and simply letting down more string (I call it string, but it’s actually a fishing line.). I then had the glove over the ball and was pulling up when the ball dropped out of the glove. I tried to make the necessary adjustment, and then dropped the glove down again, but when I did, a security guard started yelling, “Sir, sir.” I looked back, and he motioned for me to get my glove out of the bullpen. I then headed back to over to straight-away left field- the bullpen is behind the left-center field wall- and caught a ball on the fly off of the bat of Mark De Rosa.

I then moved over to right field, where I quickly got Michael Morse to toss me a ball. He was fielding basebaballs where you see him here, but when he ran back to the wall, I called out to him and he threw me the ball.The red arrow is where he moved to field the ball and the black arrow is the path of the ball he threw me:

My next ball was hit by a Nationals lefty. It touched down in the row the woman in blue is right here, I believe, which is also where I picked it up:

Want to see how I could run so far? This was the crowd in the right field seats:

Right about the time I took that picture, I caught a Michael Morse opposite field shot on the fly from about the spot from which I took the picture.

After that, an usher came through saying, ” Does anyone have an extra baseball? I’m going to try to get Bryce Harper to sign a ball.” I wanted to be all cool and catch a ball, and then give it to her saying, “Here you go”, but I eventually relented and pulled one out of my backpack for her.

I then headed over to the third base foul ground, where the Rays pitchers were throwing:

There I got Wade Davis- who was in the last throwing group- to toss me a ball over the protective netting along the third base line:

20120621-151028.jpg
As I left the section in right field, an usher who lets me sit there during the game asked me if I could give him a ball. I said, “sure”. He later reported that he had given the ball to a little girl.

After that, I went over to the Red Seats, where this was my view:

20120621-151241.jpg
There, I got David Price to throw me a ball. He is the one all right by the right edge of the picture, and when he ran over to center field to field a ball, I asked for the ball and he tossed it to me:

20120621-151516.jpg
I then gave it away to the kid in blue in the following picture:

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After B.P. ended, I went over to the Rays dugout and the guy in dark blue tossed me a ball out of the ball bag. Anyone know who he is?:

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As for the game, Stephen Strasburg outpitched Chris Archer, and the Nationals won 3-2.

During the game, I was planning on running back and forth between both sides of the outfield, but instead, I decided to stay put in right field and talk to Rick the whole game. After the game, though, I went to the Rays’ bullpen in left field and got a bullpen attendant- who was picking up the Gatorade cooler- to toss me my eighth and final ball of the night:

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STATS:

• 8 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave three away)

20120621-161707.jpg
Numbers 269-276 for my life:

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• 21straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 8 Balls x 27,485 Fans= 219,880 Competition Factor
• 67 Balls in 14 Games at Nationals Park= 4.79 Balls Per Game
• 7 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
• 7 straight games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
• 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Nationals Park
• Time at Game 4:51- 9:45 = 4 Hours 54 Minutes

6/7/12 Rays at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

Like all those who have seen my 2012 schedule know, I wasn’t supposed to be at this game. Actually, it was the only day from the 5th of June until the 9th of June I *wasn’t* supposed to be at a baseball game, but like those of you who read (watched?) my last entry know, I gave up the opportunities to go to these games in lieu of watching my high school’s baseball team lose (For those who don’t know, I’m the team’s student manager, (I know I haven’t been posting entries very regularly, which is why I’m writing so many “those who…” clauses) and yes, I am still bitter about that fact. (We lost the City Championship game the day after I went to this game I am blogging about (Yay for parenthetical injections!))

Anyway… my crazy ballhawking schedule came as a result of my crazy  Fordham Prep (my high school) baseball schedule. On this particular day, I found out we were practicing at 2:00. This was a perfect time to allow me to go to the game since our practices usually last around 2 hours, Yankee Stadium is 15 minutes from my -now former since I graduated- school, and I like to get to the stadium half-an-hour before the gates open at 5:00.

Due to me rushing for practice, though, I forgot to pack a few things. Here are the two things I had to borrow from players on the team before i headed off to the game:

In my rush to get to practice, I forgot:

  1. A glove- I set it aside, but I think I forgot to put it in my backpack once it came time to leave. The back-up catcher was so nice as to lend me his glove he said he never uses.
  2. Sunglasses- Since Yankee Stadium has a north-easternly orientation, right field is exposed to the setting sun. Since I usually spend a chunk of my time at Yankee Stadium in the right field seats, I need sunglasses to help me from losing hit balls in the sun. For whatever reason, I completely forgot to bring any. The ace of the team’s pitching staff lent me an extra pair of sunglasses. However, of course the entirety of batting practice occurred in overcast, so I never needed the sunglasses anyway.
  3. Food- I rushed out of my apartment and never got anything to eat. It’s safe to say I would have been starving by game time. The same pitcher who lent me the sunglasses also lent me $2, and I bought 2 slices of pizza right near our school on Fordham Road. Yes, $1 pizza slices. Due to this fact, I have probably bought over 50 slices of pizza there over the past two years.
While we’re on the subject of gear, this would also be a landmark game because it would be my last game with the shoes I was currently wearing. Normally, I would have gotten rid of them a long time before, but in the last two years, my previously mentioned high school baseball team had been eliminated in the first round, so I said, “I’ll get new shoes after the season is over.” Well wouldn’t you know it, we advanced all the way to the City Championship. Before the postseason, they were about done, but they got far worse as the postseason wore on. In that time, the soles of my shoes got to this point:
As you can see, I wore completely through to the bottom of the shoe on the left shoe. Here are some pictures of the back of the shoes as well (all of these pictures were taken at Yankee Stadium)
Here’s the right shoe:
 
And if you think that’s bad, here’s the left shoe:
As you can see, the back of the shoe is almost completely split in two. When I walked, I was essentially picking up the shoe with my heel.

This game was probably categorized by the extraordinary amount of ballhawks. As I arrived at Yankee Stadium, I saw Greg Barasch at the gate. Later, Ben Weil joined us in line. There he introduced me/us to two friends of his, both named Matt. They too vied for baseballs during batting practice.

For example, in the opening minutes when there is usually no one in the right field seats, this was the view behind me:

I love the hilarious expressions people make when you catch them off guard. I know, I’m a horrible person, but you probably laughed too, therefore you are too. For the record, Greg is the victim of this picture with the goofy face in the front, and Ben is the one looking off to the side at the top of the staircase.

With the other ballhawks present, I wasn’t able to come close to anything. It got so bad, I decided to move over to left field even though it was mostly left handed hitters up for the Yankees. Long story short, I didn’t get a baseball the entire Yankees batting practice.

My first ball came when the Rays started hitting. I went over into foul ground where the position players were warming up and waved my arms at a Rays player who was finishing up his throwing. I pointed at my Rays attire and he threw me his ball accordingly. I had no clue who this player was, but I made sure to remember his face so I could look him up later on. Before I was able to do this, Greg identified him as Desmond Jennings. I then looked it up on my iPhone, and sure enough, it was him.

I then moved over closer to the foul pole where the pitchers were warming up to try to convince one of them to throw me a ball. Right then, my baseball coach called to let me know a TV network called MSG Varsity needed me to give them stats for the game the next day. Due to this phone call, I had the phone in one hand, the glove in the other, and was trying to convince Matt Moore to throw me a ball all at the same time. I’m pretty sure I yelled out, “Matt!” at one point in the conversation. If all this wasn’t enough, I was also trying to get a picture of Matt Moore while I put our conversation on speaker phone. Here would be that picture with Matt Moore about to throw the ball to me:

My plan was then to go into the outfield seats in left field and catch some hit balls, but the ballhawks I had moved to left field to avoid, had by this time come to right field. The section I was planning to man was thus all congested and I made the decision to go back to right field.

There, I got a ball that was hit after, I’d say, 10 minutes. The ball was hit, deflected off some fan’s glove in front of me, and I then picked it up.

I figured I was going to have to rely on mostly toss-ups, because look who was the player shagging balls in my portion of right field:

That’s right. It was Matt Moore. This meant I didn’t want to ask him or another player for a baseball since he had already personally given me a baseball and would probably recognize me if I asked him a second time, or if he saw me asking another player.

However, two things happened to change my fortunes. The first was Matt Moore shifted over and started patrolling the center field area, and the second is it started raining, which cleared the section up since people ran for shelter. The section prior to the rain was absolutely packed. After the rain, though, it looked like this:

I actually have to give an assist on my next ball to a commenter on Zack Hample’s blog. I don’t know who exactly it was, but somebody suggested to Zack he use the MLB At-Bat app to have the faces of the players at his disposal. I actually thought, “You know what, that is a VERY good idea.” So while I was waiting for the gates to open, I downloaded the app just in case. After Matt Moore left the right field area, some player who didn’t have his number visible came over to the section close to me. I then looked up all the Rays pitchers on my app, and I saw it was Burke Badenhop. I then yelled out, “Burke, can you toss me that ball please?!” He looked up and threw me the ball. I then gave this ball away to a kid I distinctly remember as having red sunglasses on. In fact, he’s in my last “Matt Moore” picture, if you want to get a look at the kid.

Then it really started pouring.  As a result, there was virtually nobody left in the section. One fan though, was actually walking up to the front of the section. As he passed me, I noticed he had a Vietnam Veterans hat on like this one I own:

As is my tradition with all Vietnam Veterans, I went up to get his attention and give him a special greeting. Just as I was about to tap him on the shoulder, a Rays lefty hit a ball that appeared to be going over my head. I ran up a few step, got in line with the ball, and caught it. Immediately upon catching it, two things happened:

1. Batting Practice ended- How cool is it that I literally caught the last ball of batting practice?

2. I handed the ball to the veteran, saying, “Welcome Home” – The reason I said, “Welcome Home” is that this is how Vietnam Veterans greet each other (I know this because my father was a Vietnam Veteran (Yes, both are capitalized)). This is because unlike World War II, there was no mass “return of the troops”. In addition to this, not many people were in favor of the war- for good reason. Therefore, Vietnam Vets were never really welcomed home when they came back, in some cases not even by their own families. For the record, I do *not* support war. I am of the school of thought that says, “support the warrior, not the war.” I don’t want to get too far into that, but I just think violence is dumb and counter-productive. Anyway, here is a picture of the vet with the ball occluded by his torso:

After the veteran thanked me, I headed over to left field to see how the other ballhawks had done. On my way over there, I gave away my third baseball to a kid, who was rather sad it was raining, on the concourse. After I finally got to the left field seats, this was my view:

There, as you can see, I’ve pointed out several people. Here’s who they are:

1. One of the “Matt”s I was introduced to at the gate, specifically, Matt Winters, a ballhawk from the greater LA area who was in the area for a bachelor party in Boston.

2. Mark McConville- He is a ballhawk I know from being at several of the same games as him over the past two years. I didn’t mention him earlier because he showed up after the gates had opened. He was another one of the flood of ballhawks at this game as was:

3. Mark’s friend- I never got a name, but he was with Mark at this game and also tried catching some baseballs.

In that last picture, you can see Matt is looking at something outside the tunnel. That would be the bullpen he is looking into. We all were at one point or another. The reason is, because there were three baseballs in there we were all trying to snag. The first was snagged by Greg, who was behind me. The second, was snagged by a kid in the bleachers. Both his and Greg’s ball were tossed up by I believe a police officer, although I’m not entirely sure, because I was in the tunnel busy being sheltered from the rain. Finally I decided to come out of my den and try to snag the last ball. It was actually a bit hidden, because it was in the box where the bullpen phone is. Mark was going to ask the grounds person, but I managed to get his attention by asking him for a ball in Spanish. He looked around and made a gesture as to say “there are no baseballs left”. I then said, “there’s one over there” pointing to the box. He then went over, picked the ball out, and tossed it to me. Here is the ball:

That would be it for the game snagging-wise.

Really that was it for the entire day. The Rays won the game 7-3. It wasn’t really the Price-Sabathia match-up I imagined. Sabathia struck out a bunch of Rays, but wasn’t on top of his game, and Price left in the fifth inning. I assume it was because of his pitch count, because he hadn’t given up a run.

Before I write in the stats for this game, I should let you know that my last game’s entry now has the stats and pictures, so you can check that out if you haven’t already seen the stats from that game. Now, without further adieu, are the stats from THIS game.

STATS:

  • 6 Balls at this Game (3 pictured, because I gave 3 away)

numbers 259-264 for my life:

  • 42 Balls in 9 Games this season= 4.67 Balls Per Game
  • 18 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 9 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 9 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
  • 6 Balls x 39,891 Fans= 239,346 Competition Factor
  • 52 Balls in 14 Games at the New Yankee Stadium= 3.71 Balls Per Game
  • 14 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1 Ball
  • 6 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 2 Balls
  • 6 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 3 Balls
  • Time at Game 4:40- 11:17= 6 Hours 37 Minutes

MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference 2012- Day 2

For those wondering why it took me so long to get this posted, last week (March 4th- 10th was National Procrastination Week), and I was… er… celebrating until this past Sunday. So anyway, here is the entry…

Ah, day 2. This conference couldn’t get any better, right? Well, it didn’t. It simply maintained its awesomeness from the first day, but before we delve into the events of the second day, here are some items I got on the first day that I would like to share. First, here is the ID I used to enter the convention center. It might look familiar to those of you who follow me on Twitter (If you don’t follow me on Twitter and would like to do so there is a button to do so over there —> It is near the top of the page):

Pretty self-explanatory, right?

At the door, in addition to giving us those spiffy IDs, we also got a “goodie bag” of sorts:

The lower right item is the bag all this other stuff came in. The labeled items going clockwise from the bag are: an ESPN the magazine you may recognize from my introductory entry to this conference, the “handbook” is really a book that explains everything about the conference. Mostly, it has all of the panels and bios of each of the participants, a list of all of the participants in the conference (about 2,200) sorted by organization, and finally, a mouse pad that is basically a square cut out of some thin plastic sheet ( I actually don’t know if it is a mouse pad, but I assume so with how it looks). The other two things are a metallic bottle and some book I still haven’t figured out the theme of.

So anyway, NOW let’s get to the action of the day. There was no common panel for everyone to watch this day. It was just “go directly from breakfast to your first session”. That first session for me was “Measuring Belief in Sports Performance Research”. Since it wasn’t Baseball-related, here are only a few of the slides:

Just to give you an idea of the “globality” of this conference, the talk was given by this guy, Peter Blanch:

Yeah, well he’s from Australia.

The next talk was sort of a spin-off of a talk I had heard the previous day in that Peter Fadde helped research for this company.

Anyway, it was “Training Above The Neck”. The company was Axon Performance and the talk was given by their vice-president, Jason Sada:

The idea of the company is to enact Malcolm Gladwell‘s idea of getting mastery of something with 10,000 hours of practice, but instead of having a player go on the field and wear down their body’s mileage and risk injury, the athletes master the mental aspect of the game through their products. An example of the mileage thing being the case is, for those who pay attention to football, Quarterbacks will almost always say after they’re retired that once they started figuring out the mental part of the game, their body started failing them. An example of the usage of these products is that Minor League Baseball Players, who have eons of time traveling on buses, could actually see 5,000 pitches and practice identifying the first 1/8th of a pitch’s flight instead of just being bored out of their mind. This really was a presentation meant to be experience and not read, so I actually won’t post any of the slides. For example, the presentation started off with a movie about the company.

Not to belittle the other sessions, but next was by far my favorite session of the day and quite possibly the conference. Actually, though, it wasn’t as easy a choice as you might have thought. Right up until the end of Axon Sports’ presentation, I still didn’t know whether I was going to either: Franchises In Transition, or Box Score Rebooted. Right at the end of the session I thought to myself, “Hey, doofus, what are you even debating? You are a stat-oriented Baseball fan. Go to Box Score Rebooted!” So not only did I go to that one, but it was boxed lunch time so I was able to out-race people and get in the first row of seats. Check out the view I had:

Mind you, this shot was taken with the camera zoomed all the way out.

You may be able to recognize one of the panelists, but let me introduce them all:

John Walsh (moderator):

- Executive Vice-President ESPN.

Bill James:

- I already introduced him in the previous day‘s entry.

Dean Oliver:

- Director of Production Analytics ESPN ( if you have seen TQBR in football used, he was part of the team that invented it).

John Dewan:

- The founder of STATS Inc.

John Thorn:

- Official Historian for MLB.

Trust me when I tell you they had some very interesting things they talked about, but unfortunately I don’t have my notes with me as I lent them to someone else who wanted to know about the conference. Like the Ron Shapiro video, I’ll tweet it out when I update the entry. However, here is a video if you want to watch the whole panel:

Also, here’s the panel I was thinking of going to. You can tell me if you think I made the right choice:

Next up was a session that I really didn’t expect, and it was disappointing as a result. It was a competition between business schools when I thought it was going to be a presentation or panel on business. So, I’ll show the competitors and that’s it.

Here are the three people from the first school I forgot the names of, even though they were sitting right next to me prior to, and during the competition:

University of Chicago Booth School, the eventual winners:

So anyway, after that it was time for “Building the Modern Athlete: Performance Analyitcs“. This panel was made up of:

Peter Keating (moderator):

- Senior Writer for ESPN the Magazine.

Mark Verstegen:

- CEO of Athlete’s Performance.

John Brenkus:

- Co-Founder of BASE Productions.

Mike McCann:

- Legal Analyst for Sports Illustrated.

Kevin Pritchard:

- Director of Player Personnel for the Indiana Pacers.

Angela Ruggiero:

- Four-time Olympic Ice Hockey Medalist.

This panel really didn’t talk a bout Baseball at all, so I’ll refrain from writing about the content of it.

The next panel I went to was entitled, “Fanalytics“. It was either that or “Fantasy Sports Analytics”. The deciding factor was that the former was held in the Ballroom, so I would have an easier time finding a good seat for the closing ceremonies. So, I left the previous session a tad early and managed to grab a seat in the section directly in front of the stage. Unfortunately, it was towards the back so all of my pictures were taken through the heads of people in front of me and some of the “good” pictures were ruined as a result, but anyway, here are the panelists:

Bill Simmons (moderator):

- Writer for ESPN. Listed, though, as the editor-in-cheif for Grantland, which is that mysterious book in the middle of the second picture of the entry.

Jonathan Kraft:

- President of the Kraft Group.

John Walsh:

- I already introduced him in this entry.

Nathan Hubbard:

- CEO of Ticketmaster.

Tim Brosnan:

- Executive Vice President of Business for MLB.

It really wasn’t a Baseball panel per say, but I think its better moment came from the Baseball related banter going on between Bill Simmons and Tim Brosnan. For example, Bill complaining about the fact that you can’t watch Baseball clips on Youtube and then Tim responding to it. If I ever get around to posting the footage I have of this panel, I’ll tweet it that the entry has been edited, but it’s pretty crumby because of all the people’s heads I had to constantly move my camera out of the way of. So if you want to watch it just for the entertainment value of that (and it was entertaining to those of us present), here is the video if you want to watch:

Next up was the First Annual Alpha Awards, which were awards in the field of analytics made for the conference. There were a bunch of them, so I’ll just highlight the most notable ones.

First (I believe), was Bill James winning the “Lifetime Achievement” Award. Here is a video I took of the occasion. I apologize for the blurriness, I had a telephoto lens all the way zoomed-in, so I wasn’t exactly close, and the camera was feeling heavy at this point:

Next was the Tampa Bay Rays winning the prize for best-run organization (this being in terms of analytics, of course):

The last notable award was for the University of Chicago Booth school winning the business competition I was at earlier:

I really have no idea whether those events actually took place in the order I presented them, but I do know that after the awards, there was a “Live B.S. Report” with Mark Cuban.

First of all, it was a completely non-baseball “session”, so I won’t share anything besides the pictures, but it was a unique situation that I want to describe in that this was Mark Cuban’s only session of the conference (it was the last session of the conference period). Even though he was supposed to be there the whole weekend. So he basically flew out from wherever just for this session. The only other panel I attended he should have been in was the “Fanalytics” panel. So, here are the pictures:

After the BS Report itself ended, Cuban and Simmons got mobbed on the stage by all of the MIT students who organized the event and personally thanked/ shook the hand of each one of them. If you are a Basketball or aspiring Sports Business person, it may be a session to listen to as both involved are “personalities”. So for those of you who do want to take a look/listen, here is the video:

They were then nice enough to pose for me to take a picture. Don’t let their eyes fool you, the whole set-up was for me:

Oh and when I say “mobbed” it’s not that much of a stretch. The stage was pretty small and there were a lot of people. This next picture is just me moving the camera to the left to show all of the people outside of the shot, and that’s not including the people out-of-frame to the right:

…and that was your conference. I went out in the halls to film a video you will probably never see and went back to my hotel room already planning to comeback next year.

So obviously, I extremely recommend this conference if you are really into sports and live in the North-eastern region of the United States. Even if you don’t, it might be worth it. It was just THAT amazing for me.

Lastly, there may be a few more entries regarding this conference coming up, so if you’re waiting for the rest of the “Offseason Recap and Preview” entries, bear with me. I wanted to keep writing them all the way up until the beginning of the season and this conference provided the perfect excuse to do so. I will actually be doing an in-school internship involving this blog, so expect entries done during the month of April to be a tad more developed along with me experimenting with a few things. Also, if you want to check out the video page, here, is the link. They used some of my pictures as the shots for the videos. See how many you can pick out that are my pictures from these two entries.

P.S. I really didn’t want that to be the last word, just because the conference was so awesome so here are the final word: What a way to spend two days.

Tampa Bay Rays 2012 Offseason Recap and Preview

The Rays were the beneficiaries of (reportedly) the greatest day in baseball last year:

Grade: A-

Notable Additions:

Carlos Peña, Burke Badenhop, Jeff Keppinger, Josh Lueke, Jose Molina, Fernando Rodney, and Luke Scott.

Notable Subtractions:

Casey Kotchman, John Jaso, Kelly Shoppach, and Andy Sonnanstine.

Why?: Really every thing they lost, they replaced, and they also added talent. They replaced Casey Kotchman with what I believe to be a better first baseman in Carlos Peña. They downgraded a little by replacing Shoppach with Molina, but also added a very good player in Luke Scott, who I see most likely to be the Casey Kotchman of this year for the Rays in that he will over-perform his contract.

Andy Sonnantine would have been a reliever for the Rays (because of the depth of their rotation), so they over-replaced him with  Fernando Rodney, Burke Badenhop, and Josh Lueke. This was a huge bolster for a bullpen depleted from their form two years ago.

I haven’t even gotten to what may be their best move of the offseason. Okay, so it really wasn’t an addition, per say, but signing Matt Moore to a 6- year, $14 million (or something in that range. I’m sure of the money, but not the years), contract was probably a good move, potentially a spectacular. For those who don’t know, Matt Moore is ranked in the same echelon as Stephen Strasburg. This is $2+ million a year for an ace-type pitcher for six year. They then have a secondary part of the deal made up of club-options that make the deal a total of 8 years and $40 million (this I am sure of).

 

You may or may not remember that Evan Longoria signed a similar contract (6 years 17.5 Million on his seventh day in the league, or something ridiculous like that). Well, doesn’t that look like an incredible deal now? They can’t really lose that much. At worst, they are losing the $16 Million over the first part of the contract if he stinks, or injures himself. Even for the low-budget Rays, that isn’t a huge blow. The upside on this deal is enormous, though.

 

Predicted Record Range: 92-97 wins

 

Next Up: 

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